An item ran in yesterday’s Tips and Rumours alleging that journalists Neil Mercer and Steve Barrett had been “Spotted having lunch in a cafe at Frenchs Forest” with NSW brothels spinner (and Crikey regular) Chris Seage. We are now confident that this meeting did not happen. Crikey apologises to both Mercer and Barrett.

Neil Mercer writes: I read that I was having lunch with Chris Seage and Steve Barrett (yesterday, tips and rumours). Must have been a good one because I can’t remember it. Hang on, I know why, it’s because I wasn’t there! Doesn’t really matter, I guess, except some people think it’s true.

Bunnings vs Rotary:

Geoff Paine writes: Re. “Charity’s fire appeal hits a snag at Bunnings” (yesterday, item 14). To your “galled” Rotarian who thinks Bunnings “got in the way” for running Saturday’s sausage sizzles and donating it to the bushfire appeal. Your “member of a Rotary Club in Sydney” was miffed that Rotary couldn’t raise money for … the bushfire appeal. Er, hello.

The point was that this was an exceptional Saturday in response the previous exceptional Saturday. All sorts of fundraising groups, big and small, had to re-schedule. Does Rotary have a special priority we don’t know about? If Bunnings paid for the supplies, what’s the problem? The funds ended going to our own very needy communities. Some distance from Sydney (sorry) but important nonetheless.

While the long saga of hamburger patties versus sausages makes for scintillating reading, the reason Bunnings has standardised it’s sausage sizzles (same product, same price, same length of time) is not only due to the myriad health, safety and public liability insurance laws, it’s because each competing charity wants the same access to that precious cash. There are simply too many needs and not enough weekends, so Bunnings policy is to pick a Saturday, wait your turn and make sure you do the paperwork.

They supply the cooking equipment, you supply the food, drink and volunteers and at the end of the day, clean it up and keep the funds. They set the price so that there isn’t a discounting war between different stores (lowest prices would be just the beginning). I’ve manned one of the BBQ’s myself and yes, it’s a long day, but that’s the point — everyone gets the same shot at raising the cash.

Our BBQ was for instruments at the local high school. It’s not one of Rotary’s national and international causes, but in a local, community way, important. And if Bunnings asks for figures for funds raised on its premises, with its equipment, isn’t that exactly what Rotary, Apex and Lions do? As in, they have to? Open and honest reporting, that sort of thing.

Your Rotarian complains that they get less than 26 weeks in the year. Most charity groups get one. Rotary seem to be getting the lions share (unless Lions raise their funds somewhere else).

The accusation that Bunnings “got in the way” of the fundraising is petty beyond belief. The fact that thousands of people were quietly prepared to pay $50 or even $100 for a single sausage speaks volumes for the depth of feeling this disaster has evoked. They didn’t ask for publicity, they handed over the money. Bunnings did the same.

Rob Lake writes: What a cranky curmudgeon is your anonymous Rotarian; he and his superior fundraising. His efforts are to be preferred to those of the Bunnings team members and his causes are more worthy than all others.

If he or she focussed on the outcomes and less on the process, he would be glad that bushfire fundraising was taken care of by Bunnings staff. He also seems miffed that sporting clubs are also allowed to sell sausages. Their cause is apparently less deserving.

Does Rotary own fundraising, or just the moral high ground?

Global Financial Crisis

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Fed alert: Obama’s home loan plan looking shaky” (yesterday, item 21). On 18 February Barack Obama finally signed into law his own administrations amended stimulus package. This was despite the fact it had passed a week before (11 February) by both houses of Congress and he was claiming it needed to be acted on quickly!

The public relations spin (certainly not substance) or signing pieces of paper are becoming a bread and circus distraction of this President. Examples are the far from closed Guantanamo facility (let alone the lack of a solution), taking delivery of Air Force One (which if you turn down the voice over – always a good test of the substance of a story) was literally walking onto the plane, and shaking a few hands.

The stimulus package turned into a partisan fiasco full of bailing-out-states largesse, pork barrelling generally, trade-killing ‘buy American’ clauses, and the fumbling financial market response, which has seen confidence drop.

I have always had concern about Obama’s complete lack of experience, I would like to be proven wrong, but it is not looking likely at present.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Don’t depend on China saving the world” (yesterday, item 25). Plagues of Financial Planners who roamed the landscape spewing “Statements of Advice” from their templated laptops are no more. Most have returned to the used car lots from which they rose without trace. The water tank marketeers have also shrivelled as the market saturates and with it — most of Queensland. What’s the next big thing then? Why, Pink Batts of course.

Car lots will be again denuded of salespersons as the Pink Batt bonanza gathers pace. Our Mandarin Candidate (PM Rudd) has spoken. Capitalism has eaten its own excrement. Our great leader has a solution. Everyone can make a great leap forward out of recession simply by becoming part of the Pink Batt revolution. Every home shall have them. Backyard barbeques can be converted to glass furnaces to produce pig glass billets for export to China. A virtuous circle of Pink Batt trade with China will follow. The East is Pink!!

But watch out for those shiploads of Chinese Pink Batts — they really are white melamine laced batts dyed with cochineal from squashed endangered insects.

Turnbull, Chavez and the best job in the world:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Regarding the Turnbull Turmoil, your editorial writer sneers: “The last thing we need is the rise of PM for life Kevin Chavez.”

Why does Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez become a byword for dictatorship every time he wins a vote? The fact is that Chavez has never declared himself “President for Life”, nor has he been in power as long as Howard, let alone Menzies, was. Australia, like many countries, does not have anti-democratic term limitations like America, nor does it have to replicate the biased diatribes of a country losing control of its traditional sphere of influence

I’m sure there are many criticisms that could be made of Chavez, but the inane championing of an opposition whose only alternative is a coup backed by the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Paul Gilchrist writes: Last month, the papers were talking about the best job in the world, being a caretaker on Hamilton Island. I beg to differ. I think the best job is to be a senior opposition backbencher in the Australian parliament. You get a good salary and an excellent superannuation, but could someone tell me what Phillip Ruddock, Bronwyn Bishop, Wilson Tuckey and Peter Costello do to fill up the hours in the day?

As far as I know, the only pressing tasks are to issue an electoral newsletter a couple of times a year, remember to pay the rent on the electoral office and book flights to Canberra now and then. There are a few extracurricular activities, such as writing a book and a newspaper column (Peter C) or being the President of the friends of the Sydney International Piano Competition (Bronwyn B) but surely they are doing something else to keep the grey cells moving in their declining years.

Could you help me to find out what else they do?

Death of newspapers:

June Carter writes: John Donovan (yesterday, comments) wrote about the demise of newspapers and said he would pay good money for good journalism. As a former delivery newsagent, let me tell you that the publishers have cooked their own goose.

About 14 years ago they started “telemarketing” their product to such an extent that a newsagent who has a distribution round today in SA could have 50% of his papers being sold at hugely reduced rates. When I asked the circulation manager at the time how long this telemarketing was going to continue he told me it would continue “ad infinitum”.

I was shocked and told them it was a prostitution of the product and that once customers knew there was a cheap version of the paper to be had the customers would all hang out for it. I have been proven right and have subsequently sold my distribution round BEFORE it became unsaleable.

There were at least four more circulation managers, after the one who made this stupid decision, who still couldn’t see that this was a backward step in getting people to value the written word on a daily basis. P.S. That’s why I subscribe to Crikey even though I am still a retail newsagent.

Fire and nationalism:

Nicole Watson writes: Re. “I survived Marysville for an orgy of ocker self-love” (yesterday, item 4). Peter Chambers misses the point about Tania Major. Tania was elevated to the position of Young Australian of the Year precisely because she champions ugly Australian nationalism. During the Howard era, Tania and her mentor, Noel Pearson, consistently blamed Aboriginal communities for their poverty and implored them to emulate the ideal white Australian, to whom they ascribed the values of self-reliance and responsibility.

Only now is the broader community becoming aware of what Aboriginal people have known for many years — the likes of Tania Major rose to prominence because they gave respectability to the most base aspects of the Australian psyche.

Real estate agents:

Kevin Jones writes: Zoyee Kartalis (yesterday, comments) says that real estate agents are severely impacted. Perhaps they need Denticare.

Diversity of opinion?:

Mark Duffett writes: Re. “Introducing Crikey’s latest blog: it’s Pure Poison” (yesterday, item 5). Gee, another anti-Right voice. Just what Crikey needs. Not. The editor of Crikey may have heard of the notion of diversity of opinions, but clearly he wants no truck with it.

Guy Rundle:

Jason Singh writes: Re. “Rundle: we are all Swedes now” (Wednesday, item 16). Still enjoying Crikey and Guy Rundle more than anything. More of him please! A friend and myself are probably one of only a few Crikey readers based in England and I see Mr Rundle is currently based in London.

I was wondering whether you could give me his email address (or forward this email to him) as we’d love the chance to buy him a beer or two.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.